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PURRS AND PRAYERS
January 9, 2007
 
I think maybe cats purring doesn't always mean they're happy, I said to Dave, who was telling us about their old cat who has breast cancer. Cats get breast cancer?

Oh, yeah, his wife said. We've had two who got it.

Kate was purring on the table, when we put her to sleep, I said. I will never forget: the little body, the beautiful fur, the loud purr, the needle.

I think they sometimes purr to make themselves feel better. Maybe to help themselves relax, Marti said.

This made immediate sense to me, and tugged at my heart. What fine animals they are: wise enough to give themselves the gift of calm when the chips are down, knowing that sometimes you can help yourself feel a little better by doing something you do when you are happy.

Sometimes they purr to make themselves feel better. Prayer can be like that sometimes: sometimes it's not a set of brilliantly chosen original words. Sometimes it can't be anything more than the familiar drone of ancient words from someone else, someone long ago, words you learned yourself a long time ago, words that are part of your brain stem now, after all these years, because that is all you have. You're fresh out of brilliant words. So you use the old ones, and they wash over you like a kindly stream of sweet warm water.

Never think that you have to be brilliant in prayer. Don't worry if you can't find the words, or if the only words you do find may not be the right ones. There are no wrong words in prayer. Sometimes there's just a sound, and sometimes there is only silence. God enters anything you inhabit, even if all you have left is your own emptiness.

Well, she's eighteen years old, Dave said. She only weighs four pounds now. It won't be long. And she will probably purr right to the end. which is probably what we should do, as well.
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